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Carrying on the Christmas Spirit

This is all very well with my eldest daughter who is quite good at following rules. But I wonder what will happen with my younger child who seems to revel in defiance and who likes to stir the pot. If knowledge is power, when the time comes, how will she wield it? Either I lie to my children or I teach them to lie to their peers.

The alternative is that we ruin Christmas. Even now, when I remember that day near the bike sheds, I think of those kids as bad kids. I talk to the kids about the importance of pretending. I tell them that our imaginations are a precious gift and that pretending is good fun. We still put out milk and biscuits, we still leave carrots for the reindeer. And when they wake in the morning to find crumbs and hoof prints they seem to be genuinely excited.

I have to stop myself from asking: Clearly, children have a marvellous capacity for wonder. The male octopus fertilises the female with one of its arms. Humans first landed on the moon using computers far less powerful than our phones.

How to Tell Your Kids There's No Santa

Brazil was named after a nut and not the other way around. Because I might be alone on this one. Trying to create magical childhoods by lying and deceiving? She is doing a PhD on urban birds. My mum and dad told me Santa was real. They had assured me the legend was true, and that magic existed.

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I would never disbelieve, because I knew my parents would never lie to me. I felt sorry for the other kids, whose parents had let their scepticism go too far. Then the bombshell dropped. My mother told me.

Should you tell your kids the 'truth' about Santa? - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

In fact, she didn't really even tell me — she just casually said one day, "You know about Santa, right? She just assumed I already knew, because of course she did — who the hell still believes in Santa when they're 10? I guess it was a disillusioning day for all of us. I learned that Santa wasn't real, and my parents learned that their son was an idiot.

How does lying make Christmas merrier?

Of course I learned that I was an idiot, too: I'd been an idiot for 10 years, and the two people I trusted most in the world had worked assiduously to keep me that way. This is exactly why parents are being urged to reconsider, in the lead up to Christmas, what impact lying about Santa has on children. In an article published this week in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, two psychologists suggest lying to kids — even about something as fun and seemingly harmless as Santa — could undermine their trust in their parents later on, and leave them open to experiencing "abject disappointment".

Which is why my kids, aged seven and 11, don't believe in Santa Claus. We told them Santa was pretend when they were about three or four — when they were old enough to start asking questions about it. He was just a story like the ones in books and movies, we said, a bit of fun at Christmas. They took it well; there was none of the shock or anger I recalled experiencing as a kid, probably because we were just conveying information, not shattering a long-cherished belief.

And if I'm unsure of pretty much every other parenting decision I've ever made, I am absolutely certain that I was right on this one. After all, Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. A time of wonder, of giving, of love and togetherness that can make the world seem a little more bearable for a few weeks. Does the knowledge that we are deliberately and systematically deceiving our offspring somehow intensify the joy we wring from the season?

The argument against telling kids the truth, of course, is always, "Oh, let the little ones have their fun". We say, "Don't spoil the magic for them" or "Let them have their childhood". Sure, it is great for kids to have a sense of wonder, but we don't need to lie to give it to them. You can enjoy Harry Potter without believing owls actually deliver mail. So you can certainly enjoy Christmas without believing in the annual suspension of the laws of time and space to allow a global delivery run by an ageless man with an over-active generosity gland.

Indeed, if it's immoral for adults to take advantage of their kids' credulity, it's also demeaning that we do it with such a patently ridiculous story. Does it really seem like a constructive use of time to keep holding together this tissue of imbecility?

7 Reasons to Tell Your Kids the Truth About Santa (And Still Keep the Magic in Christmas)

Some parents even tell their children that the Santa at the shops is the real one. I feel blessed mine at least respected my intelligence enough to not take it that far: Some parents also use Santa as blackmail, and threaten an empty stocking if their children misbehave.

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But, as the Lancet Psychiatry article's co-author Chris Boyle points out, "It's potentially not the best parenting method. You're talking about a mythical being deciding whether you're getting presents or not". The only really tricky bit is that, unfortunately, many of our kids' friends have persisted in Santa-belief long past our family's Age of Enlightenment.

But all it takes is a little tact, and an instruction to not go around bursting anyone's bubbles.

'There is potential for children to be harmed'

As Dr Boyle argues, you don't have to be a Grinch about telling your children the truth: And so we've explained to our kids that not everyone knows the truth about Santa, and it's not our job to correct them. Of course they get it: And that's a habit you start early, if you drop the Santa charade. So do yourself, and your children, a favour: Free your family from the shackles of Yuletide myth, and breathe the fresh air of reality. First posted November 27, If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC.

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